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How to write a killer proposal – Part 2

7 Mins

Hopefully you’ve already read part one of this series. It is important to invest time and energy in developing a proposal writing style that gives you the opportunity to increase your acceptance rate to the max.  

Get technical

Using technology for extra speed and control, e.g. Tinderbox Online Proposal Management Software to track who opens and reads specific sections.

Using pictures to paint 1000 words

As the old saying goes… a picture paints a thousand words, so make sure you use diagrams, schematics and charts wherever you can to avoid long, complex texts. The use of diagrams or schematics is a great way to make benefits jump out of the page. 

Making sure your pricing detail is clear and concise

It’s essential to make sure your prices are laid out fairly and squarely so the detail is clear. Highlight any additional or conditional terms and conditions, e.g. validity of proposal, delivery timescale; VAT to be added, etc. Don’t forget to include payment terms and information about what happens if orders are changed or cancelled. Include everything price-related to your proposal that you’d want to know in order to make the buying decision if you were in the client’s shoes.

Protecting your proposal so it can’t be tampered with

Although it’s reasonably uncommon for potential clients to mess around with proposals, there may be some unscrupulous people out there who change stuff and then sign on the dotted line. This could leave you hung out to dry. In order to avoid this, use technology (the likes of Tinderbox described below) or at least save your proposal as a PDF.

Getting the look right

Although the most important element of your proposal is what it says, it also matters how it looks. Most people make a judgment about a document before they even read it. The look, feel and even smell of your document could influence the final decision. So make sure you have an attractive and, if possible, professionally designed front page displaying your logo, headline, name of the recipient and so on.

Respecting confidentiality

In today’s world of electronic communication it’s all too common for confidential documents to go astray. In order to protect your back and to acknowledge to your potential client that you’re mindful of confidentiality, it’s well worth adding a footer to your proposal that says that the information in the document is commercially confidential and is not to be shared with third parties without the author’s written permission.

Outlining in detail the training and support that’s included

Incorporated in most tech proposals is some form of training and support. It may well be that your training and support is what winds up differentiating you from your competitors and winning you the deal. It is therefore essential that you make clear what’s included in the proposal, plus any optional extras that might allow you to up-sell.

Listing any assumptions that you make

No matter how thorough your fact-finding process with your potential client, and no matter how in-depth your sector knowledge, it’s a fact of life that from time to time, when you write a proposal, you need to make assumptions. This is fine, but it’s essential that you list the assumptions you’ve made, so they’re clear to everyone concerned.

Featuring company awards or accreditations

Awards and accreditations are external recognition that you, your product, your service or your company has done something out of the ordinary. No matter how shy you feel about shouting these accomplishments from the rooftops in person, it’s essential that they’re included in any proposal. Again, this is a great way to help you stand out from the crowd as well as giving your potential client confidence that you’ve impressed an impartial audience by doing or achieving something special.

Making your executive summary concise with all the facts

When you reach the point of writing your executive summary, it’s tempting just to knock together a standard one-size-fits-all version so you can get the proposal off in the post or by email. If this is your approach, STOP. Many people only look at the Executive Summary and make their judgment before looking at the rest of the proposal. 

Make sure your Executive Summary appeals personally to either the person or the organisation at which the proposal is aimed, as well as making clear the three key reasons why your solution is the best solution. Don’t forget to include an overview of the commercials and a call to action, making it clear to the reader what they should be doing next.

Use technology for extra speed and control – use Tinderbox

Tinderbox (and similar products) are worth checking out if you deal in volume proposals. The great thing about this system is that it allows you to monitor when and how the reader reviews your proposal, and who reads it. In the same way as analysing website traffic, this information is hugely valuable and allows you to plan the next phase in your sales process with military precision. In short, by using Tinderbox, you can track who is reading your proposal and what elements of it interest them most of all. This gives real power to your sales elbow and may well be worth the additional investment.

Peter Andrew is Head of Innovation at Alba Innovation Centre.

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